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G.R. No.

171247 July 22, 2015

ALFREDO L. VILLAMOR, JR., Petitioner,


vs.
HON. AMELIA C. MANALASTAS, PRESIDING JUDGE, RTC-PASIG CITY, BRANCH 268, and
LEONARDO S. UMALE [deceased] substituted by his spouse, CLARISSA VICTORIA
UMALE, Respondents.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

We resolve the present petition for review on certiorari1 assailing the January 31, 2006 resolution2 of
the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 91940.

Factual Antecedents

This case stemmed from the complaint3 filed by Leonardo S. Umale4 (respondent) against Alfredo L.
Villamar, Jr. (petitioner) and others5 with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City. The
complaint sought to compel the petitioner to account for, pay, and deliver to the respondent the
rental payments allegedly in the petitioner's possession.6

The case was originally raffled to Branch 155 presided over by Judge Luis R. Tongco, who
voluntarily inhibited from hearing the case upon the respondent's motion.7 The case was later re-
raffled to Branch 268 in the sala of Judge Amelia C. Manalastas (Judge Manalastas).8 Subsequently,
the petitioner filed a Motion for Inhibition,9 Supplemental Motion for Inhibition,10 and Second
Supplemental Motion for Inhibition11 (collectively, Motions for Inhibition) to disqualify Judge
Manalastas, on the following grounds:

(i) That defendant Villamor [petitioner] has obtained information that the presiding Judge
[Judge Manalastas] has stood, together with plaintiff [respondent], as godparents to a child
of common friend; and

(ii) That the Law Firm of Ponce Enrile Reyes and Manalastas, for and in behalf of their client
Mr. Hernando Balmores, wrote defendant Villamor [petitioner] on a purported claim which
appears to be the very same claims asserted by plaintiff [respondent].12

Judge Manalastas issued Omnibus Order13 dated October 17, 2005, which denied, among others, the
Motions for Inhibition, thus:

The allegations of defendant-movant [petitioner] in seeking inhibition of the presiding Judge fall
short of the proof required to overcome the presumption that the judge will undertake her noble role
to dispense justice according to law and evidence without fear and favor.

On November 7, 2005, the petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals (CA)
assailing the Omnibus Order insofar as it denied his Motions for Inhibition.14
The petitioner claimed that Judge Manalastas's resolutions,15 not pertaining to his Motions for
Inhibition, were not included in the Petition for Certiorari as they were the subject of a Motion for
Reconsideration with Motion to Lift Order of Default (MR with Motion to Lift Default Order)16 filed
with the RTC on November 3, 2005.

On November 16, 2005, the CA issued a resolution requiring respondent to comment on the petition.
The respondent filed his comment on December 14, 2005.17

The parties, however, had already filed with the CA the following manifestations and motions
before the issuance of the November 16, 2005 resolution:

1. On November 11, 2005, the respondent filed a Manifestation with Motion to Dismiss
Petition on the ground of forum shopping, pointing out the pendency of the MR with
Motion to Lift Default Order filed by the petitioner with the RTC assailing Judge
Manalastas's Omnibus Order.

2. The petitioner filed his comment in opposition to the Manifestation with Motion to
Dismiss Petition. He argued that the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order did not include
the subject matter of the Petition for Certiorari, i.e., the refusal of Judge Manalastas to inhibit
from hearing the civil case.18

3. Meanwhile, the petitioner filed with the RTC a Motion for Inhibition of Presiding Judge on
Account of Institution of Administrative Case (Motion for Inhibition on Account of
Administrative Case)19 on November 12, 2005, on the basis of an Administrative Complaint
for Gross Ignorance of the Law or Procedure and for Bias and Partiality (administrative
complaint)20 filed with this Court through the Office of the Court Administrator on
November 11, 2005. In this regard, the petitioner filed with the CA a Manifestation of Filing
of Administrative Complaint for Gross Ignorance of the Law or Procedure and for Bias and
Partiality on November 14, 2005.

Subsequently, on November 18, 2005, the respondent filed a Supplemental Manifestation/Motion to


Dismiss Petition (reiterating his claim that the petitioner engaged in forum shopping and praying
for the dismissal of the Petition for Certiorari) since Judge Manalastas 's inhibition had also been
raised as an issue in the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case filed with the
RTC.

The petitioner later filed with the CA a Manifestation dated November 22, 2005, to the effect that in
view of his filing of an administrative complaint against Judge Manalastas, he filed with the RTC a
Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case.

On December 1, 2005, the petitioner filed another Manifestation with the CA stating that he had filed
an administrative complaint against Judge Manalastas with the Office of the Court Administrator.

The CA Resolution21

The CA dismissed the petition on the ground of forum shopping. It noted that contrary to the
petitioner's claim, the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order prayed that the entire Omnibus Order
be reconsidered and set aside without excluding the issue of Judge Manalastas' s inhibition.
Moreover, the petitioner later filed with the RTC the Motion for Inhibition on Account of
Administrative Case. The CA observed that the administrative case referred to by the petitioner in
support of the motion was based on the very same grounds he raised in his previous motions for
inhibition.

The CA also found that the Petition for Certiorari filed with the CA and the pending motions in the
R TC prayed for the same relief; this, to the CA, was a plain and simple case of forum shopping. The
dispositive portion of the CA resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the private respondent's motion and supplemental motion to
dismiss the petition are GRANTED.

The instant petition is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

The Petition

The petitioner seeks the reversal of the CA resolution on the following grounds:

1. "THE COURT OF APPEALS, BY ITS RESOLUTION DATED JANUARY 31, 2006, xxx HAS
DEPARTED FROM THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL
PROCEEDINGS, WHEN IT ACTED UPON MOTIONS TO DISMISS FILED, WITHOUT
LEAVE OF COURT, BY RESPONDENT IN VIOLATION OF SEC. 5, RULE 46, AND ITS
OWN RESOLUTION DATED NOVEMBER 16, 2005 REQUIRING PETITIONER [sic] TO
FILE A COMMENT TO THE PETITION AND NOT A MOTION TO DISMISS, AND
THEREAFTER, DISMISSING THE PETITION IN CA-G.R. S.P. NO. 91940 ON THE
GROUND OF FORUM SHOPPING; AND

2. "THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS, BY ITS RESOLUTION SOUGHT TO BE REVIEWED


HEREIN, SANCTIONED THE DEPARTURE BY THE TRIAL COURT, MORE
PARTICULARLY ITS PRESIDING JUDGE AMELIA C. MANALASTAS, FROM THE
ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS IN THE MATTER OF
INHIBITION, SO AS TO CALL FOR THE EXERCISE BY THIS HONORABLE COURT OF
ITS POWER OF SUPERVISION OVER THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE TRIAL
COURT."22

Respondent's Comment23

The respondent raises the sole issue of whether the petitioner engaged in forum shopping.

The respondent argues that the petitioner engaged in forum shopping when he availed of three
separate remedies, namely: (1) the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order filed with the RTC; (2) the
Petition for Certiorari filed with the CA; and (3) the Motion for Inhibition on Account of
Administrative Case, also filed with the RTC; praying for the same relief, i.e., the inhibition of Judge
Manalastas from hearing the case.
The respondent asserts that a party is guilty of forum shopping when he repetitively avails of
several judicial remedies in different courts all substantially founded on the same transactions and
the same essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same issues either
pending in or already resolved adversely by some other' court.24

Petitioner's Reply25

The petitioner reiterates in his reply all the arguments he raised in the petition.

Additionally, he wants this Court to rule on the propriety of Judge Manalastas's refusal to inhibit
herself from hearing the RTC case. He points out that considerable time has already elapsed, and to
serve the ends of justice, the controversy must finally and totally be laid to rest.26 Issues

Two issues thus arise for this Court' resolution:

I. Whether the petitioner engaged in forum shopping; and

II. Whether Judge Manalastas's decision to continue hearing the civil case was improper.

Our Ruling

The petition is without merit.

We rule that (1) the petitioner engaged in forum shopping, and (2) Judge Manalastas's decision to
continue hearing the civil case is not improper.

The Petitioner Engaged in Forum Shopping

As a rule, forum shopping is committed by a party who, having received an adverse judgment in
one forum, seeks another opinion in another court other than by appeal or the special civil action of
certiorari. Conceptually, forum shopping is the institution of two or more suits in different courts,
either simultaneously or successively, in order to ask the courts to rule on the same or related causes
and/or to grant the same or substantially the same reliefs.27

Forum shopping also exists when, as a result of an adverse decision in one forum or in anticipation
thereof, a party seeks a favorable opinion in another forum through means other than an appeal or
certiorari.28

There is likewise forum shopping when the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final
judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in another.29

Litis pendentia is a Latin term meaning "a pending suit" and is variously referred to in some
decisions as !is pendens and auter action pendant. As a ground for the dismissal of a civil action, it
refers to the situation where two actions are pending between the same parties for the same cause of
action, so that one of them becomes unnecessary and vexatious. It is based on the policy against
multiplicity of suits.30
There is litis pendentia when the following requisites are present: identity of the parties in the two
actions; substantial identity in the causes of action and in the reliefs sought by the parties; and the
identity between the two actions should be such that any judgment that may be rendered in one
case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other.31

Otherwise stated, the test is whether the two (or more) pending cases have identity of parties, of
rights or causes of action, and of the reliefs sought. Willful and deliberate violation of the rule
against it is a ground for summary dismissal of the case; it may also constitute direct contempt.32

Appeals and petitions for certiorari are normally outside the scope of forum shopping because of
their nature and purpose; they grant a litigant the remedy of elevating his case to a superior court
for review.

It is assumed, however, that the filing of the appeal or petition for certiorari is properly or regularly
invoked in the usual course of judicial proceedings, and not when the relief sought, through a
petition for certiorari or appeal, is still pending with or has yet to be decided by the respondent
court or court of origin, tribunal, or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial authority, e.g., a still
pending motion for reconsideration of the order assailed via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.33

Forum Shopping at the Court of Appeals

We agree with the CA that the petitioner engaged in forum shopping.

At the time the petitioner filed the Petition for Certiorari with the CA, the RTC had yet to resolve the
MR with Motion to Lift Default Order earlier filed with the RTC.34

The petitioner took pains to explain that the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order did not include
Judge Manalastas' s denial of his Motions for Inhibition.

The petitioner fails to convince us of the merits of this claim.

Although the arguments supporting the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order pertained solely to
the issue of declaration of default, the prayer was direct and plain.

It read:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that the Omnibus Order dated
October 17, 2005, be RECONSIDERED AND SET ASIDE, and that defendant Villamor's Motion to
Dismiss dated February 18, 2005, and Supplemental Motion to Dismiss dated February 18, 2005, BE
GRANTED. It is further prayed that the order of default issued against Villamor be lifted or set
aside.35

The petitioner prayed that the Omnibus Order be reconsidered and set aside, period. He did not
pray that it be partially reconsidered and set aside only insofar as the order of default was
concerned. With respect to the "order of default," the petitioner further prayed that this order "be
lifted or set aside," thus implying that the petitioner asked for more than the lifting of this order.
Notably, the motion's preliminary statements were also unambiguous. The petitioner stated in clear
terms that he was moving for the reconsideration of the Omnibus Order; again, without
qualification. Nowhere in the preliminary statements did the petitioner indicate that he was only
moving for a partial reconsideration of the Omnibus Order.

The petitioner's failure to state in unequivocal terms that he was only moving for the partial
reconsideration of the Omnibus Order may or may not have been intentional. But, regardless of the
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petitioner's intention, the result is the same: the motion prayed for the reversal and setting aside of
the Omnibus Order in its entirety. For all intents and purposes, the MR with Motion to Lift Default
Order necessarily included the relief also prayed for in the Petition for Certiorari. Even if we accept
the petitioner's explanation that the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order did not raise the issue of
Judge Manalastas's inhibition, and that it was meant to be a partial reconsideration of the Omnibus
Order, the petitioner still cannot deny that he engaged in forum shopping.

We find it undisputed that during the pendency of the Petition for Certiorari in the CA and the MR
with Motion to Lift Default Order in the RTC, the petitioner filed with the RTC his Motion for
Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case.

The petitioner's claim that he did not engage in forum shopping completely crumbles when this new
Motion is considered. Three remedies were then pending in two separate tribunals, all praying for
the same relief: the inhibition of Judge Manalastas.

First, the Petition for Certiorari, prayed among others, that

xxx after proceedings duly had, render judgment:

(i) ANNULLING the Omnibus Order dated October 17, 2005 insofar as public respondent
judge therein denied petitioner's Motion For Inhibition dated March 1. 2005, Supplemental
Motion For Inhibition dared April 12, 2005 and Second Supplemental Motion For Inhibition
dated June 21, 2005;

(ii) ORDERING the inhibition of public respondent judge in Civil Case No. 70251 xxx36

Second, the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case prayed:

WHEREFORE, it is prayed that the Honorable Presiding Judge inhibit herself from further
proceeding with the instant case.37

Third (and as already explained), the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order prayed that Judge
Manalastas set aside the Omnibus Order in its entirety, which would logically result in her
inhibition from hearing the case.

The petitioner, however, insists that the filing of the Motion for Inhibition on Account of
Administrative Case was the necessary consequence of the administrative complaint. The petitioner
argues that the pendency of the administrative complaint should result in Judge Manalastas' s
inhibition.38

He asserts that the basis of the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case was Judge
Manalastas's gross ignorance of the law, and bias and partiality while the basis of the Motions for
Inhibitions -denied by Judge Manalastas and later the subject of the Omnibus Order elevated to the
CA through the Petition for Certiorari - was Judge Manalastas' s grave abuse of discretion in
refusing to inhibit from hearing the civil case because of bias and prejudice.

The petitioner argues that the grounds relied upon in the Petition for Certiorari were different and
distinct from those in support of the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case.39 In
sum, the petitioner claims that the remedies were based on different grounds and that they should
not be treated as praying for the same relief.

We do not find the petitioner's position persuasive.

A perusal of the administrative complaint40 would show that the petitioner raised, as one of the
grounds for imputing gross ignorance of the law to Judge Manalastas, her refusal to inhibit. In fact,
the petitioner copied the allegations from the Motions for Inhibitions and generally pasted them on
the administrative complaint.41

Glaringly, the petitioner used the same ground to support the Petition for Certiorari and the Motion
for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case. As earlier stated, the petitioner likewise prayed
for the same relief in both of these remedies.

These only lead to one inevitable conclusion: the petitioner engaged in forum shopping by
simultaneously raising the same issues in different tribunals, relying on the same ground founded
on the same facts, hoping that both or either court would grant his prayer.

Further, in anticipation of an adverse ruling in the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order, the
petitioner, without waiting for Judge Manalastas's resolution, filed the Petition for Certiorari with
the CA hoping to obtain a favorable ruling.

To reiterate, the petitioner filed the Petition for Certiorari while the MR with Motion to Lift Default
Order was pending. This violates Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which provides that the
availability of a remedy in the ordinary course of law precludes the filing of a petition for certiorari;
under this rule, the petition's dismissal is the necessary consequence if recourse to Rule 65 is
prematurely taken.42

Had the petitioner waited for the resolution of the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order, the
Petition for Certiorari would have been regularly and properly invoked in the usual course of
judicial proceedings and should not have been dismissed by the CA.

In fact, if the CA had strictly applied Rule 65, it could have summarily dismissed the Petition for
Certiorari on another ground in addition to forum shopping.

One of the essential requisites of a petition for certiorari is that there is neither appeal nor any plain,
speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law for the purpose annulling or modifying
the questioned proceeding.43

There was a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy to annul or modify the Omnibus Order. The
petitioner should have expressly included in the MR with Motion to Lift Default Order the denial of
his Motions for Inhibition so that Judge Manalastas could have properly reconsidered her Omnibus
Order in its entirety.
In the end, it was the petitioner's precipitate resort to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari that was
his own undoing.

Farum Shopping in this Court

The petitioner likewise committed forum shopping when he submitted for this Court's resolution an
issue still pending with the RTC.

We do not know if the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case was still pending
with or had been resolved by the RTC when the petitioner filed the present petition. The petitioner
kept silent on its status, in violation of his commitment under the Verification and Certification of
Non-Forum Shopping he had filed.44

What we know is that the administrative complaint, the basis of the said motion, was still pending
when the present petition was filed.45

To recap, the petitioner anchored his administrative complaint on Judge Manalastas's gross
ignorance of the law. Among the grounds relied upon was Judge Manalastas's bias and partiality,
the same ground used in the Motions for Inhibition, which later became the subject of the Petition
for Certiorari (the CA's resolution dismissing the Petition for Certiorari is now subject of the present
petition). The petitioner subsequently filed with the RTC the Motion for Inhibition on Account of
Administrative Case.

The series of events shows that the petitioner filed the present petition when the administrative
complaint, and very likely, the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case were both
pending.

Again, the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case and the present petition prayed
for the same relief.
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We note that the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case prays "that the Honorable
Presiding Judge inhibit herself from Further proceeding with the instant case,"46

while. the present petition prays that –

xxx (b) after proceeding duly had, render judgment:

(i) SETTING ASIDE the Resolution dated January 31, 2006 x x x of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. No. 91940 ...

(ii) ORDERING the inhibition of Presiding Judge Amelia C. Manalastas of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 268, Pasig City, in Civil Case No. 70251 xxx47

Plainly, the petitioner, in an attempt to increase the chances of preventing Judge Manalastas from
hearing the case, successively filed the administrative complaint, the Motion for Inhibition on
Account of Administrative Case, and the present action.
Significantly, this Court's First Division in its Resolution48 dated July 5, 2006, dismissed the
administrative complaint against Judge Manalastas.

With respect to the petitioner's claim that Judge Manalastas's refusal to inhibit herself from hearing
the civil case constitutes gross ignorance of the law, we emphasize that judges must be free to judge,
without pressure or influence from external sources or factors; they should not be subject to
intimidation or to the fear of civil, criminal, or administrative sanctions for acts they do and
dispositions they make in the performance of their duties and functions.

Try as the petitioner might to characterize and label these remedies as separate, independent, and
distinct from each other, the unavoidable reality is that their ultimate aim is the same, they involve
the same parties, and they rely on the same grounds. In short, all the badges of forum shopping are
present.

In Montes v. Court of Appeals,49 we found that the petitioner therein engaged in forum shopping
when he filed with this Court a petition for prohibition while his motion for reconsideration of the
dismissal of his petition for certiorari was still pending in the CA. Although the purpose of a petition
for prohibition is different from that of a petition for certiorari, we ruled that there was forum
shopping because the reliefs sought were the same - to restrain a government official from
implementing the same order.

In like manner, it does not matter that the apparent purpose of the administrative complaint (the
source of the Motion for Inhibition on Account of Administrative Case) is distinct from that of the
Petition for Certiorari (the source of the present petition). The controlling consideration i s that they
are both geared towards achieving the same goal: the inhibition of Judge Manalastas from hearing
the civil case.

The petitioner cannot hide under the cloak of characterization and labels to escape from the
consequences of his actions. If we allow this, the evil sought to be prevented by the rule against
1âwphi1

forum shopping would result.

We remind the petitioner and his lawyer that forum shopping constitutes abuse of court processes,
which tends to degrade the administration of justice, to wreak havoc upon orderly juridical
procedure, and to add to the congestion of the already burdened dockets of the courts.50

Further, the rule proscribing forum shopping seeks to foster candor and transparency between
lawyers and their clients in appearing before the courts – to promote the orderly administration of
justice, prevent undue inconvenience upon the other party, and save the precious time of the courts.
It also aims to prevent the embarrassing possibility of two or more courts or agencies rendering
conflicting resolutions or decisions upon the same issue.51

Judge Manalastas's Decision


to Continue Hearing the Case
was Not Improper

Although we hold that the petitioner engaged in forum shopping for reasons already explained, we
nevertheless consider the issue of Judge Manalastas's refusal to inhibit from hearing the case to
finally settle the matter.
First, Judge Manalastas's inhibition from the civil case is discretionary. The grounds relied upon by
the petitioner do not fall under the first paragraph of Section 1, Rule 13 7 of the Rules of Court which
enumerates the grounds for compulsory inhibition. We have held that the issue of voluntary
inhibition is primarily a matter of conscience and sound discretion on the part of the judge based on
his or her rational and logical assessment of the case.52

Second, bare allegations of bias and prejudice are not enough, in the absence of clear and convincing
evidence, to overcome the presumption that a judge will undertake his noble role to dispense justice
according to law and evidence without fear or favor.53 Nothing on record shows that the petitioner
ever submitted evidence of bias and prejudice.

Villamor's claims that Judge Manalastas's impartiality was allegedly compromised because (1) she
and the respondent stood as godparents to a child of a common friend, and (2) that her husband was
a partner of a law firm which represented a client whose claim against the petitioner was similar to
the respondent's, do not suffice to overthrow the presumption that Judge Manalastas will dispense
justice according to law and evidence without fear or favor. Because this act is discretionary, Judge
Manalastas is in the best position to determine whether or not there was a need to inhibit from the
case; thus, her decision to hear the case, in the higher interest of justice, equity, and public interest,
should be respected.

While a party has the right to seek the inhibition or disqualification of a judge who does not appear
to be wholly free, disinterested, impartial, and independent in handling the case, this right must be
weighed with her duty to decide cases without fear or pressure.54

In these lights, we see no reason to reverse Judge Manalastas's decision to proceed with hearing the
case.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the petition and AFFIRM the January 31, 2006
resolution of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 91940.

SO ORDERED.